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Research Briefs – August 2015

Queen's University IRC - Research Briefs

   Bringing Practitioner-Focused Research to People Management Practitioners

Aug 2015   

 

 
 

In This Issue…

  1. The What of Change: Creating a Motivating Vision for Change Projects
  2. Successful Professionalization: What Can We Learn From Forsyth & Danisiewicz (1985)?
  3. Flashback Feature:
    The Changing Role of the Neutral in Dispute Resolution
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The What of Change: Creating a Motivating Vision for Change Projects
Dr. Carol A. Beatty, Queen's IRC

Most experts advocate creating a vision as a necessary step in any change initiative. But managers have a tough time following this advice. Change vision statements are often too long, too confusing or too generic to motivate action in the direction of the change. It's tough to condense the vision into a couple of sentences or paragraphs that sing, but it is worthwhile to try. For example, Google's pithy vision statement has long provided a guiding star for employees to follow: "To make the world's information universally accessible and useful." Contrast it with the following vision statement from an actual Fortune 500 firm that shall remain nameless: "Our vision is to maximize shareholder value by enhancing financial performance and providing long-term profitable growth." Very few employees are going to spring out of bed each morning full of enthusiasm to "maximize shareholder value."

A clear vision is important for change leaders to think through because it forces you to identify exactly what you are aiming for instead of some vague, fuzzy or rosy picture of the future. It is important for your employees, too. During times of change, they want leaders who have a clear vision and communicate a clear message. As John Kotter famously said: "Without a vision, change can dissolve into a list of confusing, incompatible, time-consuming projects that either go in the wrong direction or nowhere at all."

So I hope we can agree that a vision is important. Now let's observe a vision in action and follow Cirque du Soleil through its growth into a large, successful, international arts organization.

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Successful Professionalization:
What Can We Learn From Forsyth & Danisiewicz?

Claude Balthazard, Vice-President Regulatory Affairs and Registrar, Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA)

In this article, we take one of the more interesting and useful models of professionalization and apply it to the Human Resources field to see what insights can be had.

There are a number of models of professionalization, and of those one of the more interesting and useful models is that of Forsyth & Danisiewicz (1985). What makes this model so interesting and useful is that unlike other models it has a functional approach rather than a descriptive approach—that is, it looks at the process of professionalization (see figure 1). We should introduce a caveat at the start, however. The Forsyth & Danisiewicz (1985) model is, after all, just a model. The model is derived from observation and reasoning but not empirical data. Indeed, in regards to professionalization, despite the search for general principles, each situation needs to be considered as a case study. The point is that models of professionalization like the one proposed by Forsyth & Danisiewicz (1985) should be considered for the insights they may bring about, but they are not 'laws' and are not necessarily correct or the only way things can happen.

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Flashback Feature:
The Changing Role of the Neutral in Dispute Resolution
The Honorable Mr. Justice George W. Adams, 1997

We are in a period of profound change. The combination of new technology, global trade and recurring recessions has resulted in the demise of many Canadian workplaces and the restructuring and re-engineering of many others. Today's watchwords have become 'flexibility' and 'competitiveness.' There have been many casualties. Older workers who have lost their jobs have not easily found alternative employment. Where work has been found, it is seldom comparable in content or remuneration to what was lost. Younger workers have also been adversely affected. Caught by surprise, they too often lack the skills required in the new economy. They therefore find themselves lining up to apply for the fewer assembly and unskilled jobs that remain or for work in the service sector which pays considerably less and for which they must compete with their elders who are now unemployed. Increased structural unemployment in the double digit range has been the result.

The public sector has not escaped these changes. The money markets have refused to support the rising public indebtedness in Canada and governments at all levels have been forced to scale back expenditures. Because most of these costs are wage costs, employees have had to be shed and new technology adopted where practical.

Collective bargaining has been caught in the middle. It is attacked as a barrier to change when trade unions fight to resist what they view as ill-considered initiatives by management held hostage by investors and financial institutions. Unions are political as well as social and economic institutions. Giving up benefits others fought hard to win is a challenging political exercise. Many union leaders do not see their role as helping workers walk backwards. On the other hand, Canadian employers are subject to unforgiveable market forces. The issue for them is also one of survival. Where wages are a significant portion of total costs, down-sizing, outsourcing, and restructuring are obvious steps within an employer's control. Other initiatives require union cooperation, take time and require disclosure and sharing of information. With bankers, investors, and parent companies looking for immediate change, unilateral initiatives have a certain appeal.

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